Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: James O. Ito Interview
Narrator: James O. Ito
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Laguna Woods, California
Date: November 9, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ijames-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: Okay. Today is Tuesday, November 9, 2010. We are at the Ito household in Laguna Woods. We have Tani Ikeda on video, and Toshi Ito here in the room, and my name is Martha Nakagawa, I will be interviewing James Ito. So Jim, let's start with your father's name, and what prefecture did he come from?

JI: Ito Chotaro, and he was born in Fukuoka, Hantoku-mura, Chikushi-gun. I don't remember what, I don't remember what year it was. [Laughs] But he was pretty old.

MN: How about your mother? What was her name and what prefecture did she come from?

JI: Who?

MN: Your mother.

JI: My mother? She was... my mother came from Fukuoka also. Let's see... I can't think of the... Asakura-gun, or anyways, the island of Kyushu up in the hillside.

MN: And what was her name? What was her name?

JI: Yoshise... I don't know why I can't think of it.

MN: That's okay. Kiku Yoshise.

JI: Kiku Yoshise.

MN: So your mother was Chotaro's second wife. What happened to his first wife?

JI: I don't know. It was in Japan, she passed away in Japan before he came to America. So we don't know much about that.

MN: When did your father come to the United States?

JI: Turn of the century. Let's see... I think my father came before my mother, about ten years before the 1900 (and first worked in the Hawaiian Islands). And then he worked on the farms in California and he settled in Riverside and became the head gardener for Mission Inn. And then he started the Ito Nursery.

MN: The garden that your father landscaped at the Mission Inn, is that still there?

JI: The waterfall is still there, and most of the landscaping is still there. We saw a waterfall he put in at 1900 (...). I guess most of the... landscaping changes. But in 1900 he landscaped the Mission Inn. And you know where Mission Inn is in Riverside? It's a very prominent hotel. Then he started the Ito Nursery.

MN: So your father did very well with the Mission Inn, so he was able to start his own nursery business.

JI: Yes.

MN: I'm going to back a little bit, okay, Jim? Now, your father, did he first go to Hawaii first and then work on the plantation and then go back to Japan and then come to Oakland, California, and then come to Riverside?

JI: Yeah. He did a lot of traveling.

MN: Now, then your father went and married your mother, Kiku Yoshise. And I'm going to read the names of the children your parents had, and I'm going to start with the oldest. Your oldest in your family is Hanako, Hannah.

JI: That's for the... he, my father had Fred and Frank, and he brought those two over, and the sister, they didn't quite make it over here. They were, grew up in Chikushi-gun, Fukuoka. And the two boys came over, and for a while, they worked in our grocery store, and then they started the Ito Brothers Markets in Glendale, Eagle Rock area.

MN: So Fred and Frank are your half brothers.

JI: Yes.

MN: And that is from your dad's first wife. And with your mother, he had Hanako Hannah, Tamotsu Tom, May, and then you, Osamu James.

JI: Her name was Minoru, but she didn't like Minoru, 'cause it's also used for males, too. So she called herself May.

MN: And then you came after Minoru May, James Osamu. And after you is Tomiye, and then Yutaka, Makoto David, Satoru Bill, and Toshiko Dorothy.

JI: Yeah.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MN: Now, what year were you born?

JI: August 10, 1914.

MN: Were you delivered by a samba-san?

JI: Yeah, a samba-san just lived a half a block away.

MN: Where were you born?

JI: In Riverside. We had a nice house with two acres of fruit trees. And I remember my father worked in Arizona doing the agriculture work, and with a team of men. And my mother took care of the two acre farm, grew vegetables and fruits and chickens and had a cow.

MN: So your mother took care of the children on this two acre farm, and your father was farming in Arizona?

JI: Right. And he was the head gardener for Mission Inn, and then he went off and then he bought the house and took a crew of men to Arizona.

MN: Jim, what is your birth name?

JI: Pardon?

MN: What is your birth name?

JI: My first name?

MN: Birth. When you were born, what is the name you were given?

JI: Osamu.

MN: When did you pick up the name James?

JI: Oh, about in the sixth grade. I named myself. I didn't like being called Osamu. They called me "Oh-sam."

MN: Did you name yourself after a friend or uncle, or how did you pick the name James?

JI: Just a common name.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: Now, when you were five years old, you moved from Riverside to the Los Angeles area. Where did you go?

JI: Well, on Western Avenue, across the street from the fire station. It was near First Street where we had a, it started as a fruit and vegetable store there. And we had many hakujin customers. Then we moved to Hollywood, Cahuenga Boulevard. It was 1523 1/2 Cahuenga. Then we had a storefront there, it was the middle of Cahuenga. We also started a store on the corner of Cahuenga and Hollywood Boulevard. And that's when we had customers like Charlie Chaplin. I remember one time we went to deliver the fruits and vegetables to Charlie Chaplin's house, and he had just left. He just went to Europe that morning, and he never returned. And so all the fruits and vegetables we delivered, the two servants took over. So I never got to meet Charlie Chaplin. [Laughs] I said, "Oh, today I'll get to see him," and then he left. Never came back.

MN: You also had John Aiso living nearby. Is that correct?

JI: Yeah, it's about two blocks away. He used to work for a grocery store for a while. We had, actually, it was a fruits and vegetables (and some bakery goods). And we had all kinds of customers. Yeah.

MN: Now, when you were living on Cahuenga Boulevard, did you go to Japanese school?

JI: (Yes, after elementary school). That's when I started, yeah. I went to the Cahuenga Avenue elementary school for six years, and then I went just one semester to Le Conte junior high. Then we moved over to Glendale area. See, it'd be Eagle Rock, Glendale, and we became the, then my two brothers started their fruit and vegetable stores in Eagle Rock. They had two stores. And when we came, we became the third Ito Brothers Market.

MN: So your half brothers, Fred and Frank, had two stores. One in Eagle Rock, one in Glendale. And then your family had another Ito Brothers store. So it was three Ito Brothers stores.

JI: Right.

MN: So it was a chain.

JI: Yeah.

MN: Now, which church did you attend?

JI: I first went to Hollywood Methodist Church. I went all by myself when I was twelve years old, and had myself baptized at the Hollywood Methodist Church on Highland. I was twelve years old, and that's when they baptized me. And I was the only one from the family, no one else went with my family. 'Cause everybody was busy in the store. I was twelve years old, I was still on my own. [Laughs] And I even climbed the mountain, the Hollywood mountains there all by myself, all over to Griffith Park.

MN: But you did a lot of hiking.

JI: Yeah.

MN: Did you take judo or kendo classes?

JI: I did at one time. I started taking judo. I started kendo first and then took judo. I was pretty good at it. I remember I threw several people, especially the hakujin. [Laughs] And elementary school, the boys, they tend to get into fights. But since I would throw them, they stopped bothering me.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MN: When was, around when did you first visit Japan?

JI: I was twelve years old when I went with my mother to Fukuoka. And I spent a year there with her. It was a farmhouse, big farmhouse. I didn't do much. The stream along the side of the house where fish would come, and it ended in a pond at the house. And it was on the beginning of the mountains in Fukuoka there, and we had a lot of trees around. Then had the rice farm, rice and wheat. Of course, we had stream and a pond, and had fishes. It was a nice time when you're twelve years old.

MN: And then you came back (to California).

JI: Yeah.

MN: And you went to Le Conte middle school for a semester?

JI: Yeah, for a semester. Then there was a middle school in between, and I went to Glendale High School.

MN: Now, you also said you were active with the Sage Methodist Japanese church?

JI: I first, when I was twelve years old, I got Baptized at the First Methodist Church in Highland. I went all by myself, (...) and became a member of the church there. Since my parents were busy having the store, I just roamed around climbing the mountains. And then I took judo and did a little judo activities, and kendo. I was pretty good at that. So I didn't get many people bothering me. [Laughs]

MN: So did you help start the Sage Methodist church?

JI: Yes, I joined the Methodist church when I was twelve years old, all by myself.

MN: Did you visit the Christian church on Terminal Island?

JI: No, I didn't do anything in Terminal Island. We didn't live there. Let's see... Glendale... I went to junior high school. From Selma school I went Le Conte junior high for a while. Then the Glendale High School where I graduated.

MN: And then you went to Japan in 1931, a second time.

JI: I went with my mother, spent a year.

MN: You were seventeen years old at the second time you went to Japan.

JI: On the second time, yeah. First time was only twelve.

MN: What did you do in Japan your second time? Did you help with the rice farm?

JI: Let's see. Well, I didn't do much work. I would help when they planted the rice plants, you had about six people lined up and we'd all plant them in, right in uniform, every, six inches apart. And then we'd all be lining, straight line, and we'd just move like that, and plant rice.

MN: Hard work?

JI: Yeah. And I would clean, we had a stream and a pond. I took care of the fish. And we'd have koi to eat once in a while.

MN: Do you remember Japan becoming more militaristic at this time?

JI: Well, I was pretty young, so I wouldn't... I was getting to that point of being involved. Remember one time I was, we did, the boys gathered together and did a little marching. But not much. I didn't get caught up in that military, I guess being, actually being a foreigner. So we came back to United States.

MN: And your mother died in 1933. How did she pass away?

JI: Cancer. Well, she had quite a few children, so... yeah, so she was pretty ill there for a while and then passed away. Rosemead I guess it was.

MN: Who did the funeral arrangements? Was it Fukui?

JI: Yes, I think so. He's the only one we used each time. I guess you know more than I do. [Laughs]

MN: Now, this is during the Great Depression. How was the Ito Brothers store doing?

JI: We did pretty well. We had no problems. We got along. Like our store was, we opened the whole front, and we would display all our fruits and vegetables so that (you could) see it from the street. We got quite a few customers, and some politically well-known people.

MN: But did a lot of people become indebted to you, and did you have to close the business?

JI: Yes, we had quite a few accounts. And a lot of 'em never paid us, 'cause it was Depression time. Then we moved to Rosemead to take over a farm. We did farming there on about 20 acres. We had a stable and two horses. I guess I have some pictures of that. So I was pretty busy gardening in those days, and going to school.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MN: And then from Rosemead you moved to a farm on San Gabriel?

JI: On San Gabriel, yeah. San Gabriel Boulevard. And then my brothers and sisters got old enough to take over, so I went to college. I had them give me a hundred dollars, and then I went to UC Davis for two years, then I transferred to UC Berkeley and got my BS there at Berkeley.

MN: What did you major in?

JI: Soil science. Soil science and horticulture. And I came home and went to school in L.A. Unified School District and got my teaching credential.

MN: Before we go that fast, I'm gonna stop you. We skipped the war years. When you were going to school at UC Davis and Berkeley, what kind of job did you have?

JI: Housekeeping. So I was the housekeeper for whatever officers of the school at Davis. And then when I went to Berkeley, I also got a job working for one of the school officials. That's how I got away and got to school. So I spent a lot of time working and studying, and I kept a B average, so I did all right.

MN: Did you cut hair also?

JI: Huh?

MN: Did you cut hair?

JI: Yes, I cut hair also. In my spare time, I would cut hair. Yeah, I did a lot of housework primarily. Anyplace where I can get a job. Because to make your way through college, it takes a lot of funding. And so I kept pretty busy. And I kept a B average, which is pretty good for working and going to school.

MN: Were you in ROTC at Berkeley?

JI: Yeah, at Davis.

MN: At Davis also. Was the ROTC compulsory? Did you have to be, did all males have to be in --

JI: Well, at first they had, you had to do something, some sort of sports or P.E. I did, I worked in the ROTC.

MN: So after you graduated from Berkeley with a degree in agriculture and horticulture, it was soil science?

JI: Soil science and horticulture.

MN: Horticulture. That was in 1940?

JI: 1940.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MN: What did you do after you graduated?

JI: Well, our family had a farm, and so I helped them for a while. I'm trying to remember what did I do? I did a lot of things.

MN: This was in West Covina?

JI: Yeah, West Covina. I think you know more than I do. [Laughs] There were so many things that happened.

MN: You, your brother and sister Bill, David and Dorothy, you worked the West Covina farm?

JI: Yes, I worked there. First we went to Rosemead, and we bought a house there, that's where we lived. Then we moved to Rosemead, we took the house with us to Rosemead.

MN: You physically moved the house from Rosemead to the San Gabriel Valley farm.

JI: Right. Across the street, across the street from the farm.

MN: And this was before you went to college?

JI: Yes. My brothers and sisters took over. They got old enough to do it, so I let them take care of the place and I went, took a hundred dollars out of the, out of our account and went to school.

MN: And then you came back.

JI: Then during the holidays I would come and work in the farm. So I went to Davis first, and spent two years, and I went to Berkeley, spent two years there. Got my B.S. in horticulture.

Off camera voice: Remember, you purchased the farm in West Covina, and Bill and David and Dorothy...

JI: They took care of it while I went off.

Off camera voice: No, they left you with the farm.

JI: Huh?

Off camera voice: They left you with the farm.

JI: I know it. They took over when I had left.

Off camera voice: No, this is when you started the Ruby farm. Sorry.

MN: Do you remember the Ruby Ito farm?

JI: The Ruby Ito farm? The one on San Gabriel? Yeah.

MN: Why did you call it the Ruby Ito farm?

JI: Ruby, Ruby rhubarb. We started a... well, I started it. You shelter the rhubarb, and so it became like a hothouse rhubarb, very tender and light-colored. And I would cover them up so that, to give (them shade). We sold (them on) San Gabriel Boulevard, opened the store that, well, a little shop there. And that's how we sold our rhubarb and berries, we grew a lot of berries. Strawberries and raspberries, and different kinds of things. So we did okay.

MN: So everything was red that you grew on the Ruby Ito farm, the strawberries, the raspberries, the rhubarbs, they're all red.

JI: Yeah. We had a shed just a few feet from the highway on San Gabriel Boulevard. And we had a (shop there that) became the store. And then I went to college.

MN: This is after you went. We're after the college now. You have the farm, and then the war started.

JI: And then the what?

MN: The war started.

JI: Yeah.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MN: Do you remember what you were doing on Sunday, December 7, 1941?

JI: Well, I remember in West Covina, I was on the farm in West Covina, and that was on the street there, right on the sidewalk there, I heard the news over the radio. And I was all by myself there. And I kept wondering if I should be involved. Then I decided to join the army, turned the farm over to a neighbor, then was inducted in Minnesota.

MN: Not yet. Right after Pearl Harbor you tried to join the army. That first time, did they take you?

JI: No.

MN: Now, that first time, they did not take you into the army.

JI: Yeah. I was involved in, with the evacuation.

MN: In 1942, the spring, the Terminal Island people were kicked off the Terminal Island. Did anybody move into your neighborhood?

JI: Did any what?

MN: Did any of the Terminal Island people move into your neighborhood?

JI: No.

MN: When you had to leave for camp, what did you do with your farm?

JI: I turned it over to my neighbor, a hakujin neighbor, and asked him to take care of it. And then he would keep all the profits.

MN: And there was a Chinese man, Louie On?

JI: Also I had the, my Chinese insurance man do the paperwork on it. 'Cause he didn't do any work. My neighbor did the work.

MN: The hakujin man did the work?

JI: Yeah.

MN: And then Louie On did the paperwork.

JI: Well, I guess he did. I'm told afterwards he didn't pay anything, hardly. So I had to pay the debts when I got back.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: Which assembly center did you go into?

JI: Huh?

MN: Which assembly center did you go into?

JI: Heart Mountain.

MN: Before Heart Mountain?

JI: We went to Pomona. Pomona, and then to Heart Mountain.

MN: And what kind of job did you have at Pomona?

JI: I became head of the Social Affairs, so I had to take care of practically everything that went along, I had to take charge of.

MN: So you organized all the boys and girls clubs, all their social activities?

JI: Well, there were lots, but I wasn't active in those. I was active in taking care of the whole place. And had to run all kinds of clubs. Eventually we got to Heart Mountain.

MN: Before we go to Heart Mountain, let me ask you another question on Pomona. At Pomona, did you live with your entire family?

JI: We got separated.

MN: Who did you live with?

JI: Well, David, Bill, and Dorothy.

MN: Your younger siblings.

JI: We had our own, we had one room, we had one big room and Dorothy was kind of curtained off, her area.

MN: So from Pomona you went to Heart Mountain.

JI: Yes.

MN: And what do you remember of the train ride?

JI: It was a long ride, I think it was five days. It was a slow ride, they stopped here and there. I slept on the floor on the aisle because you couldn't sleep sitting up all the time, twenty-four hours. So I slept in the kitchen, dining room.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: Now, when you got to Heart Mountain, what was your first impression of Heart Mountain?

JI: A beautiful mountain. And the river, had a nice Shoshone River. I took a walk, I was the first one to get out of the camp to walk around since I was placed in charge of the camp, head of Social Affairs.

MN: That was at Pomona.

JI: No, well, Pomona, it was Heart Mountain.

Off camera voice: No, at Heart Mountain, you walked around to test the soils.

JI: Yeah, I walked around the whole area.

Off camera voice: To test the soils, not for social.

JI: I defined what we had and what to do, 'cause I was placed in charge.

MN: Before we go there, Jim, let me ask you this: your first job was in charge of leave.

JI: That's in Pomona, you mean.

Off camera voice: No, in Heart Mountain.

MN: That's where you met your wife? Do you remember that? And then you headed the weather station.

JI: Yeah, I was in charge of the weather station. Let's see. I remember the post that I had, I don't remember exactly where it was. Saw so many places.

MN: When you were with the weather station, how cold did it get?

JI: One day it hit minus 41, and the rest of the time it didn't hit 40 again. It was always around 38, 36, 37, minus.

MN: That's cold.

JI: Yeah.

MN: And then after this, you were put in charge of Heart Mountain's agricultural program.

JI: Yeah.

MN: And this is when you were the first person to be permitted to walk around Heart Mountain, is that correct?

JI: Yeah, I walked all the way around to see what to do. Then settled along the Shoshone River. I had the best agricultural soil, and the levelest places to work. And there were a lot of clods and shrubs and things, but we took a couple of tractors and just went down and kind of mowed up the area. Eventually did the whole, round the whole camp, but primarily along the river. Inside of there we would grow our vegetables. And I was told to feed twelve thousand people. So I had to decide what to do and (where) to put things. We were very lucky that one of the (...), one of our evacuees had a seed business, and he sold us all of his seeds, and that's what we worked with. And we were able to even provide vegetables to some of the other camps. And his personal Japanese vegetables, we'd grow also. And I turned it over to the (...) cook group. They never invited me to any of their meals, and here I gave 'em all these special Japanese vegetables. That bothered me. [Laughs] After you give some people something special, and they do not invite you. So, well, I still remember. It still bothers me.

MN: Now, how long is the Wyoming growing day?

JI: Ninety days, I think.

MN: So how do you manage to grow your crop in ninety days?

JI: The days were longer up there. And so they grew faster. And along the river that I used mostly, the soil was nice and sandy and fairly deep. So we were very lucky to have that area to grow our vegetables.

MN: Who helped on the farm?

JI: Well, we would get volunteers to come, and we'd pay them, what, eleven dollars a month or something? [Laughs] We all got just eleven dollars a month. Things grew faster, and in ninety days we were able to get all our vegetables. And the winters we'd get, we'd get frost and snow.

MN: So tell me about this huge root cellar you had.

JI: Well, there was... I don't know why there was a root cellar there. It's about a block long. And it was used for, for the engineering... I guess they had something in mind that they used it for, but I took it over and we grew our vegetables in there during the wintertime.

Off camera: You didn't grow the vegetables.

JI: Huh?

Off camera: You didn't grow the vegetables in the root cellar, you just placed them --

JI: We kept them there. Well... we grew some things there. I germinated some things in there, especially in the springtime. I got, you start there before the frost ended.

MN: Now, when the "loyalty questionnaire" came out, the "loyalty questionnaire," do you remember the "loyalty questionnaire"?

JI: No.

MN: You don't remember that?

JI: Questionnaire?

MN: The "loyalty questionnaire"?

JI: Whatever it was. [Laughs]

MN: The "yes-yes" "no-no." Do you remember answering a long questionnaire?

JI: I don't know. I had so many of those things. I don't remember any particular one. (Narr. note: Yes, I remember.)

MN: Okay. Tell me about your younger brother David who got beaten up in camp. Why did he get beaten up?

Off camera: You remember David got beaten up because he decided to join the army? He volunteered to go to the army? You don't remember?

JI: I don't remember the details, 'cause I wasn't, I wasn't involved in it. A separate different affair, I just heard about it and that's it. (Narr. note: Yes, I was busy feeding 12,000 people!)

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: So after a year that you got the farm started, you went out of camp and you had a, got a job in Beltsville, Virginia. Do you remember what you did there?

JI: It was the horticulture project.


MN: Now, from... you were in Beltsville, Virginia, when we last left, and you were working for the government on an experimental agricultural work. Then you volunteer for the Military Intelligence Service.

JI: MIS, yeah.

MN: Where did you do your basic training?

JI: Well, we had military exercises, and then... let's see. In MIS... gosh, what did we do? When you're in the army, you just follow what they tell you to do.

Off camera: You went to learn Japanese.

JI: Well, I was supposed, they taught us military Japanese. We tried to improve our vocabulary so that, of course, we also took the regular army exercises.

MN: And this was at Camp Savage?

JI: Yeah.

MN: And then you went to Camp Snelling?

JI: Camp Savage, Minnesota.

MN: And then you went to Camp Snelling? Camp Snelling?

JI: Camp Snelling? Yeah. That's where I spent most of the time.

MN: When did you and Toshi get married? When did you and Toshi get married?

JI: Well, '45, July. Was it July 14th, is it? Well, anyways, when we both had time, we got together and got married. Came to Los Angeles when we got married. So it's a long time ago. [Laughs]

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: So after your marriage in L.A., you went back to Camp Snelling, and, but you didn't go with your platoon. What happened?

JI: Well, I came back for a funeral service, for father's funeral. Then we got married, I guess.

MN: So you got married, and then you returned to Camp Snelling.

JI: She went with me.

MN: You had to come back because Toshi's father passed away. And then you, that's why you couldn't go overseas with your platoon.

JI: Yeah.

MN: And this is when you were discharged?

JI: Yeah, I guess I got discharged and then I joined again. And after the, taking care of her family, I joined again and I was sent to South Korea where I became a tech sergeant and assistant to a colonel, and we ran the country of South Korea. So actually I ran the country.

MN: 'Cause you spoke Japanese, you had to --

JI: Yeah. I was able to communicate with the cabinet and the legislature, and the colonel and I decided how to, what to do with the country. And since I spoke, I could communicate with the people, I went to the legislature with the cabinet members and worked on... and we asserted the U.S. Army policies, and so we were able to run the country. My colonel didn't do anything. [Laughs] I did everything. So when I left, everybody was kind of disappointed that they didn't know who was gonna run the country. And my one year was up in Korea.

MN: And the reason the Korean people were able to understand you, because they were under Japanese rule.

JI: See, all the Koreans had studied Japanese. They had to study Japanese at school, and so they all spoke Japanese. And so I was able to communicate with the legislature and the cabinet. And so the colonel and I ran the country since it was under the United States Army. So actually it was the army that ran South Korea for one year. I don't know what they did after that. Because they didn't have anyone to take over my position. I even advised the high school kids, yeah. And the girls wanted to know how to dance, so I had to teach them how to dance. [Laughs]

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MN: So after a year, you returned to the United States. You were honorably discharged in central California. And then you sold your farm property. What did you do with the money?

JI: I divided it with my brothers and sisters, and I took part of it. So I went into real estate. Yeah, what did I do?

MN: And then the vending machine business, and then you went back to school and you got your teaching credential. And where did you teach first?

JI: In... let's see.

Off camera: Milikin.

JI: Huh?

Off camera: Milikin. Milikin junior high school in Sherman Oaks.

JI: In Santa Ana?

Off camera: Sherman Oaks.

MN: Sherman Oaks.

JI: Oh, Sherman Oaks, yeah. That's what I was looking for, Sherman Oaks, junior high school there. And I started up a farm in school and I taught them how to grow vegetables and berries and greenhouse plants. Then the principal, I fixed up the whole garden with all kinds of interesting plants. And then the principal wanted me to landscape the whole school, so I left. [Laughs] I got a school in Gardena, wanted me, so I went over there. So I didn't have to landscape the school.

MN: Now, when you were teaching horticulture at Milikin, did your class win awards?

JI: Did I what?

MN: Did they win awards?

JI: Yeah, we won first place several times. And this is why the principal wanted me to landscape the whole school, because we won first place on landscaping the gardens. I put a waterfall and stuff like that, lakes, and grew all kinds of plants, greenhouse and outside. And we experimented with all kinds of plants.

Off camera: You had a hydroponics...

JI: So we had quite a garden. Variety plus, plus landscaping, looks, too. So put in a lake and everything. Well, anyways...

Off camera: Not a lake, a pond.

JI: It was a pond. [Laughs] Well, it was supposed to look like a lake.

MN: But then you got a transfer to Gardena, Perry junior high school.

JI: Yeah, I was asked if I would come by the Japanese there. So I transferred over, 'cause I didn't want to landscape the whole school in Sherman Oaks.

MN: How long were you at Perry?

JI: At Perry? Was it twelve years? Let's see, all together I put in twenty-five years teaching. Eleven... well, anyways, it's been a long time, since, too. I enjoyed teaching horticulture in Gardena. Taught a lot of people to landscape the garden.

Off camera: Gardena landscaping, people would come to him.

JI: Yeah.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MN: Now, after the war, have you been back to Heart Mountain?

JI: We went by the... last year?

Off camera: Yeah, last year we went.

MN: Now, the land that you converted into farmland, is that still farmland?

JI: Everything's all farm now. Here ours was the first one in the whole county. And right now, the whole area is farm. So I guess I started something, remember having to walk out of a concentration camp, past the soldiers who were guarding, and then walking around the whole area and deciding what to do with, I was told to feed 12,000 people, so had to decide what to do. We were lucky that we were not too far from the river, Shoshone River. And along the river you have some, well, it's more sandy along the river, and you're able to grow things. So I was able to feed the 12,000 people, plus send excess to other camps.

MN: How does it feel to know you started this farmland, and it's still going?

JI: Yeah. We went there last year, and the whole area is now agriculture. And before, there wasn't any. It was all desert land. So it's quite, well, makes you very happy that things have gotten so well. And now you can't find any coyotes. [Laughs]

MN: Jim, how do you feel about redress?

JI: My what?

MN: Redress. Redress. When Ronald Reagan signed the redress bill, did you think that was possible, that Japanese Americans would be given an apology and compensation?

JI: Well, I'm very happy about it.

Off camera: It happened on his birthday, August 5, 19...

MN: '88.

JI: Yeah. It's been a long time. [Laughs] Lot of things have happened.

Off camera: Reagan signed the reparations bill on August 5, 1988, his birthday.

JI: Yeah, I've been involved in a lot of things.

MN: Do you have anything else you want to add, Jim?

JI: I forgot everything.

MN: You're doing pretty well. How old are you right now?

JI: Huh?

MN: How old are you?

JI: Ninety-six.

MN: Okay, Jim, if you have nothing else you want to say, then I want to thank you very much.

JI: Well, it's very nice for you to come, and I appreciate that.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.